Home > Torn (Demon Kissed #3)(6)

Torn (Demon Kissed #3)(6)
Author: H.M. Ward

He nodded. "There is. It's the last one in the series. We were missing the first until recently. It was tossed in here a few months ago. But it's that last painting that says what happens - who wins. If you win, you defeated Kreturus and take his power. That makes you Demon Queen. If he wins, if he steals your power when you die, then...God help us."

I looked up at him. "You don't think that I'll turn evil by the time I kill Kreturus, if that is what happens? How could you think that?"

He looked at the painting and back at me. "Because. It's all over your face. You don't want to be this girl, and yet you are. She is you and you are her; and yet, you aren't the same - yet. "

I laughed, but it was completely hollow. What were the odds that I would find the only Valefar who knew where these paintings were located? Valefar knew a lot and the ones I'd met were older for the most part. And everybody seemed to know more than I did, but no one knew where the other paintings were. I was lucky I'd seen the one. And as far as the Martis were concerned, the other twelve paintings didn't exist any longer. I wondered why they thought that. While I was thinking about the odds of me stumbling on the one guy who knew where all but one of the prophecy paintings was, I decided it was luck. But, I was a little too lucky. I mean, what were the odds of that? And for that matter, what were the odds that he'd know how to heal me, too?

I turned to him and shook my head. I couldn't ask him directly why he knew all this stuff. That usually didn't go over well. So I asked the next best thing, "So tell me, because I can't figure it out. Why are you showing me this instead of sucking out my soul?"

Lorren laughed. He laughed out loud like it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. "Suck out your soul. Why would I do that?" A huge smile spread across his lips as he wrapped his arms tightly around his middle and tried to contain his laughter. "You really think I'm a Valefar!"

My words sounded like I was offended, and I was. Lorren thought I was an idiot. A bumbling prophecy girl. I snapped at him, "Of course that's what I think! You're in Hell, you look like a human, and you're slightly insane. You might as well have Valefar stamped on your head!" He was still laughing softly and shaking his head.

I cocked my head and considered him for a moment. He didn't show any signs of being a Valefar. It was just a weird place for anyone but a Valefar to hang out. "Fine. But, then what are you?" Lorren folded his arms and looked down at me. His green eyes sparkled as the corners of his mouth twitched slightly. His smiles seemed condescending at first, but I couldn't really tell anymore. I wanted to kick him; he was irritating me so much. Instead I said, "You smile an awful lot for someone living in Hell."

He laughed again and replied, "I can't see the harm in telling you, although I don't think I've said this to too many people over my lifetime." I had no idea what he was about to say, but since it wasn't public information I was a little more eager to hear it. The expression on his face shifted. The smile smoothed out and his eyes were locked with mine. "Ivy, I'm an angel."


Stunned, I stared at him with my mouth hanging open. "What?" I squeaked. I don't know what I expected him to say, but that wasn't it. "That's not possible! You're in Hell. Angels don't live here. I think the Lorren smacked you in the head one too many times." My lips twisted into an uncomfortable smile. Was this why he was so intimidating? There was something about him that was so overwhelming, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was. Now, looking at him - even with his confession - I still couldn't believe it.

Walking down the wall, he began to pull back the golden flowers that hid the prophecies, concealing them completely with golden vegetation one at a time. He spoke over his shoulder while he did it, "You're very astute," he teased. "No, most angels don't live here, but I do. Let's just say I'm a remnant of the old guard." There was a smirk on his face as he said those last words.

A chill ran through me, as my stomach lurched. The old guard? Some very scary angel had occupied parts of the Underworld after Kreturus was defeated nearly two thousand years ago. They were the twisted freaks who left the Guardian at the Pool of the Lost Souls, and set traps to keep the demons contained within their world and out of mine. They were merciless. Their traps were cruel, but extremely effective. Still stunned and increasingly weary of this boy, I managed to whisper, "So you're an angel named Lorren, huh?" He smiled, nodding. I watched him as he moved the golden vines in front of him, not really paying attention to what he was doing. My mind was spinning faster than I could think. If he was an angel, and was left here by the old guard, it was possible that he didn't just live in this hideous maze. Dread filled me as words flew out of my mouth before they fully formed in my mind, "You made the Lorren, didn't you? The angels left it here. It wasn't something that was made by demons. The Lorren was made by you." There was an accusatory tone to my voice. I hated this place. The person who made it was one screwed up bastard. And yet, it was this guy - and he was an angel. Confusion contorted my face, although I tried to hide it.

He finished covering the last painting and turned back toward me. "Yeah," he laughed, "I'm an arrogant bastard, and after I finished with it, I named it after myself. Seemed like a good idea at the time. The Lorren was the strongest defense to hold back the demons. No one has passed through it and lived - except you." He flicked a glance at me and scoffed, "And I seriously wonder how that was possible."

I shirked off his jab and said, "That's why you can live here, and the magic of this place doesn't affect you? It's not because you defeated the Lorren, it's because you are Lorren." He nodded. I looked at him again, as if seeing him for the first time. He was an angel that was living inside a tomb. In Hell. I folded my arms and looked up at him, suspiciously. "So, did the angels kick you out, or what? Why are you down here?" Eric had told me that all the old guard pulled out. There weren't supposed to be any remaining angels down here anymore - hence the hideous traps.

Lorren shrugged and began walking back down the golden passages that we passed through before. I followed him, still wary, not knowing what to think or if I could believe him. It was so weird. Why would he stay here? I wanted to get out of this place as soon as possible. Everything from the cold, damp air to the eternal night made me feel twitchy, like I was trapped in a tomb. Why would anyone stay here by choice? Lorren walked with a confident stride, but his shoulders slumped forward a little bit like he thought he was too tall. I raced to keep up with him.

He'd been quiet; walking away from me quickly like my question pissed him off. "By choice," he shot me a sharp look. "And, I wasn't kicked out. I check on things once in a while. We noticed there was a lot more going on in these parts than there had been - portals being opened from the wrong side." He shot me a snide look, "Ya know, from up there," he gestured upward with his thumb, "and that's a bit unusual. Most people don't want to go into the Underworld. A few months ago a portal was opened somewhere near New York. And then another one was opened a few weeks ago near Rome." We entered the golden room where he drew most of the poison out of my chest. The silver rose that he used to heal me lay on the ledge where he left it. He picked it up before turning to me. Tipping the petals toward me, he said, "That was you. You were the one responsible for opening the portal to the Underworld. Both times." It didn't sound like a question, but it seemed like he was asking me. It seemed like he was leery of something, but he didn't give me any idea of what.

Hesitantly, I confessed, "I opened the catacomb in Rome, and I was there when they opened the portal in New York. But it wasn't me who opened it. It was the Valefar."

He walked toward me and stopped less than a foot from me. I could feel the heat pouring off of him like he was on fire. I tried to step back, but he took another step toward me. Why did everyone think they could intimidate me? I was short, but I wasn't powerless. Angel or not, I could fight back. Part of me wanted to scream at him to back off, but part of me wanted to know what he was afraid of. I could see it in his eyes. He was afraid. What types of things scared angels?

His voice was deep and came out in a whisper, "The Valefar couldn't have opened the portal without you. You have the key." His eyes burned into me as his gaze intensified. "One Valefar can pass through a portal without your key, but that wasn't what happened, was it? Demons tried to escape. Valefar went in. And Kreturus tried to come out. You tell me that you aren't helping him, and yet you're the one who opened the portals, you are the one who has the key, and you are the one who gave him part of your soul." He inched towards me as he was speaking, like he was scolding a child. His face was inches from mine. His eyes blazed with fury.

I bristled, "You don't know what you're talking about. You weren't there. I told you that I don't want this. If you had the means to break the prophecy and make it so that it didn't exist, I would tell you to do it right now - no matter what it cost me. You don't think that I feel guilty about everything that's happened? You don't think that I tried to stop it? When you found me, I was half dead. I gave up my life to end all of this! You're blind if you can't see that." Somehow my angry speech made me stretch to my tip toes, so I could scream in his face. Breathing hard, I noticed how angry he made me. I didn't care if he was an angel or not. I knew who I was, and what I wanted, but he had no clue.

There was silence. Neither of us said a word. I backed away from his face, but I didn't look away. Lorren ignored me for a moment and gazed at the wall. Finally, his eyes cut to me. "I believe you."

What an ass! My jaw dropped open in disbelief. He acted as if I needed his approval - as if I cared what he thought. When words finally formed a coherent thought, my voice was sharp, "I don't care what you believe." I pushed past him and into the labyrinth. "I'm leaving."

He called behind me, "I'm here to draw out the rest of the poison when you need me." I didn't turn around to acknowledge him. My hands clenched into fists at the thought, If I needed him. Shit! I totally needed him. If I didn't get the sapphire serum out of me, I'd make the prophecy come true that much faster.

And it'd be that much worse.

But, the part that bugged me most was that I didn't know how this all ended. That last prophecy was missing. There was no way to know if I could fix all my mistakes. There was no way to know if I died, and there was no way to know if Kreturus took all my powers and went on a rampage in my world and then wiped out the angel's realm. Lorren was an ass. I hated him. But, he was a key component in how things would end. And for some reason, he was helping me.


I wandered through the Lorren until I found the place where Eric died. The maze was much easier to navigate since it wasn't blasting me with mind-altering mist and tempting me with Collin's kisses. When I first stepped foot in the Lorren, I thought it was beautiful. I thought the golden flowers dripping with jewels were stunning. I couldn't take my eyes off of them. As soon as I realized what they truly were, I was horrified. How could Lorren sit in there and allow all those people to die in that place? I didn't understand how something that was supposed to be good, could tolerate injustice. Then I paused, realizing that maybe the people who were turned into flowers were given justice. Maybe they were supposed to be there. Either way, the golden tomb made me crave the inky sky and dank air of the Underworld. I couldn't wait to be out of the false warmth.

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